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The Crocker Land Expedition (1913-1917) had difficulties from the start. The expedition whose mission was to investigate an Arctic landmass Robert E. Peary reported seeing, was originally supposed to begin in July 1912, but due to the death of George Borup, one of the expedition leaders, in April of 1912, the expedition was put off until the following July, 1913. Then, an expedition that was supposed to last for one season ended up being four years long. During this time the Crocker Land Expedition’s ship the S.S. Diana wrecked and there were three unsuccessful rescue attempts before Captain Robert A. Bartlett, aboard the steamer “The Neptune”,  finally reached the remaining members in 1917 (in the winter of 1916 several of the expedition members had traveled south by dogsled and returned home).

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We worked on several interesting subjects today, such as Hayden Planetarium financial papers and reports related to its development and construction and a collection of materials from the AMNH Department of Education’s Natural Science Center educational exhibits and programs for young people.

Since opening in 1954, the Natural Science Center has provided the opportunity for budding naturalists to learn about plants, animals, and rocks that are native to New York City through exhibitions and educational programs. The collection we worked with today contained scrapbooks of articles and photographs that showed how the children gained new and exciting experiences at the Center. The participating children watched, touched, sensed, and smelled the objects or living animals that were provided by the Center, exploring a unique unknown world.

There is no greater experience comparable to these sorts of programs; they offer unforgettable and intriguing memories, and they would have definitely triggered their further intellectual curiosities. It is one of the ways that the educational programs are supposed to be.

Hey my baby opossum, calm down...

Treating baby owls well

The box contained some negatives and mounted photographs randomly. We will leave them as they are; however, they will need some preservation in near future.

 

 

This was our last day in Invertebrate Paleontology. We spent our morning with Bushra and Becca on the fifth floor checking that our data matched up with the collections and attaching final labels. It was a good decision to begin the day with a full room review because we realized early on that we had somehow skipped over a bay full of IP treatises and catalog ledger duplicates that required new records in our spreadsheets.

In the afternoon, we went over helpful notes Iris sent us for our spreadsheet. Looking forward to when our work will be transformed into MARC records that will eventually become part of the AMNH online research library, we had to make sure our data was neat and consistent. All of this meant deleting terminal periods and uncapitalizing words previously capitalized in all of our records, but we somehow got it all done!

It was definitely sad but also incredibly satisfying to end our work in IP. Claire and I are really proud of all that we’ve accomplished over the semester. We had fun helping Bushra realize new organization techniques for her department and we were happy to learn a lot more about Invertebrate Paleontology than we ever knew before. While it was sometimes dull work to sort through departmental files, the times when we found amazing things in the collection–photographs of the department’s early curators, beautifully handwritten ledgers and unique specimen drawings–made all of our efforts worthwhile.

Morris K. Jesup, the ideal philanthropic gentlemen and the museum’s third president, played a major role in creating and expanding various collections within the museum. Of particular interest to me these past months has been the Jesup Collection of North American Woods, founded in 1881 and funded with Mr. Jesup’s own money, to collect specimens of wood and (ideally) foliage of all trees that grow natively in North America. The collection is pretty substantial (17 boxes), and the material provides unique insight into the development of the museum as well as the preservation and display of wood and foliage specimens.

One of the most interesting relationships preserved in the collection pertains to the acquisition of the wood specimens themselves. In addition to the scientific community, Mr. Jesup corresponded with railroad companies requesting that they send him any new woods that they encountered while clearing for tracks, and with logging companies requesting the same.

One photograph really piqued my interest. It was tucked in a folder of miscellaneous photographs obtained in the late 1940’s during the building of the Hall of Landscapes, and it shows a man leaning against a cross-section of an enormous redwood tree. On the back, someone has written “now in London England- 22 ft. diameter 4 ft. long.” In the background you can see railroad tracks, the line of clear-cutting, and even some houses. It really captures the extent of logging in California. What is also interesting is that none of the surrounding trees are anywhere near the size of that being displayed, suggesting that when this photograph was taken the tree may have already traveled some distance.

I wish there was more information about about the context of the photograph- what is the approximate date? 1910? 1920? Was the picture taken because this was an unusually large specimen (which, depending on the year, it could have been), or is it unusual for another reason? Why was it cut to a thickness of only 4 ft.? Obviously the railroad track here is already built, but I’m still curious about the relationship of logging and railroad construction, and ultimately how/why the museum obtained this photograph when they were constructing the Hall of Landscapes. In most of the forestry collection everything is well-documented and its origin is easy to determine. This small file of miscellaneous photographs is one of the only mysteries.

(Xa’Niyus or Xixanus) (Bob Harris) wearing Killer Whale headdress (FMNH 85087 Anthropology collection). The Field Museum of Natural History, CSA13597 (probably by staff photographer, Charles Carpenter).

Over the past few weeks I have been sorting through the Franz Boas Photo Collection in order to create a finding aid. I first came across this collection in the summer while working the library’s photographic print collection, but now that I’m taking a closer look at the photos I’m discovering how truly amazing this collection really is.

This collection contains images that Boas had collected over time, taken by a number of different of photographers (both known and unknown). There are very few photos in the collection attributed to Boas himself, most seem to deal with his interest in studying native cultures of the Pacific Northwest.

Out of the four boxes that make up this collection, one is neatly processed with labeled folders, while the other three are much more random. You can see the comparison in the photo below.

At first I was nervous that these three boxes would be difficult to make sense of, but I spent time with Iris this morning to figure out the best arrangement plan for the disorganized boxes. We decided that the provenance of this collection did not really exist anymore, as there was no rhyme or reason to the order of the photos. Our plan is to keep the materials within each box, but to rearrange the photographs in a more orderly fashion. Today I was able to create an initial container list for Box 1 by dividing it into two distinct categories: portraits and field photographs. There are legacy numbering systems on the back of some of the photographs but it is unclear what they represent or how they once helped organize the collection.

I’m looking forward to digging deeper into this collection to see what Mr. Boas has left behind for us!

As a diversion from our typical cataloging and risk assessment, today we attended a workshop presented by Stacy Schiff, Visual Resources Librarian here at the museum, on Omeka, an open-source image cataloging software program. AMNH has recently implemented this system…so far four collections have been uploaded, and while none are live yet, they should all be publicly available in the next few months. It was educational and informative as we went step-by-step through the cataloging procedures and the descriptive standard used—AMNH Core—which is based on fields culled from Dublin Core, VRA Core, etc. Should either of us encounter Omeka in the future, we can consider ourselves well acquainted.
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Today we inventoried collections of personal papers of important AMNH paleontologists. The collections contain a variety of materials ranging from personal ephemera and realia to field notes, sketches, and photographs.

Barnum Brown’s personal papers contained Christmas cards featuring a photograph of him and his wife. Also included were his first necktie and his college yearbook from the University of Kansas.

Besides personal items, these collections contain many photographs and negatives of expeditions and finds including this x-ray of a dinosaur egg!

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Today was our first day with the photographic print collection. We were pleased to find how well organized and labeled the collections were. The photographs had been previously inventoried, so we already had descriptive information for many of the collections.

Overall, a majority of the prints were stored in individual sleeves and in good condition. We also found collections that had been processed by Barbara Mathé herself! We came across several collections of field photographs and we look forward to finding more.

Our favorite find of the day was a commemorative album marking the opening of the North American Mammals Exhibition Hall. As far as we can tell, the Board of Trustees sent contributors a set of prints on heavy cardstock in coffee table style display box.

As far as we know, this collection of negatives represents the last piece of the T. Don Carter Collection. It was discovered in the library stacks recently, not far from where Richard had been working on the collection. It’s certainly a fascinating find: a few hundred negatives, all related to Carter expeditions: to Abyssinia in 1928, Indochina in 1931 and West China in 1934. Today, we focused our energies on making sense of the large collection of negatives from Abyssinia. Consulting the field notes from that expedition, we learned that Carter visited the region in November and December of 1928.

The negatives came to us in no apparent order. There were certain potential series within the collection: portraits of the local population, portraits of Carter and the others on his expedition, shots of the specimens that were gathered, and scenes from camp. Pictures were devoted to the expedition’s mules, which seem to have a special place in Carter’s heart. Not only were these cantankerous animals the subject of many photographs, but their habits and personalities are observed in the notebooks. Alongside the mules, there were plenty of mice, dead or alive. In one curious photo, Carter and a pal hold up their kill — two tiny mice — while resting leaning upon their rifles. How you still get a usable specimen with that kind of firepower is beyond me.

A slightly more sinister photo we found involved nothing less than a plague of locusts. A young man walks across a field, stirring up thousands of locusts that had recently decimated the crops in the area.

The Department of Entomology records continued to give new surprises and challenges. Today we went through more unprocessed materials, this time with a special focus on spiders. The records include a wide variety of unsorted graphical materials. The photograph below was among the records, and if you look carefully about halfway down the leaf, you may find something to make you squirm a bit (click to enlarge).

We encountered a number of glass plate negatives, and luckily Barbara was on hand to walk us through the process of separating these out and moving them to negative storage. There are now separation sheets on the sixth floor for when items such as negatives or photographs require relocating. First, we found empty archival boxes to house these materials and space on the shelf in negative storage. After separating out the glass plate negatives, we filled out two separation sheets, one for the new box and one for the original box within the collection, so that these items can be located.

We also came across a draft of a paper going over the case to be made for spiders actively enjoying music. Apparently, spiders were seen to come out of their crevices when song was to be heard. Click the image below to read the beginning of the manuscript and view additional arachnid drawings: